Church of Scientology demands right to underpay workers

The Daily Telegraph, Australia/February 23, 2012

Scientologists have asked the Federal Government for an exemption to the Fair Work Act so they do not have to pay workers the minimum wage.

In a submission to the Fair Work review, public affairs director Reverend Mary Anderson said the Church of Scientology, which believes Earth was founded 75 million years ago by an alien tyrant called Xenu, should be exempt from workplace law because it was a legitimate religion.

"There is nothing wrong with the concept 'a fair day's pay for a fair day's work' but it is misdirected when applied to religious volunteers whose focus is not on pay but on service to a spiritual cause," Ms Anderson wrote.

"Historically, members of religious orders have taken a vow of poverty.

"At the present time, there are church volunteers who are not vowed to poverty but who do volunteer their time and effort to church work, without focus on financial reward."

Ms Anderson said making non-profit organisations pay award wages was "a violation of human rights".

The submission disappeared from public view after it was exposed on the website Workplace Express but Ms Anderson said she did not remove it.

ACTU secretary Jeff Lawrence said the submission read more like exploitation than religion. "The Scientologists' submission reads like they have been putting their heads together with Australia's employer groups, who would like nothing more than to remove workers' basic rights and conditions in their lust for profits," he said.

"The Fair Work Act review process should not be treated as an opportunity to air extremist and farcical viewpoints devoid of facts.

"This attitude that an employer should have complete free rein to pay and treat their staff however they want has no place in the modern Australia."

When contacted by The Daily Telegraph, Ms Anderson said the submission was her personal one, even though it was sent on a Church of Scientology letterhead and signed "Reverend Mary Anderson, Director of Public Affairs, Church of Scientology".

Another Scientology spokeswoman said the church had made an official submission but it was confidential.

"Nevertheless, what Mary says lines up to a small degree with the Church's past public statements," the spokeswoman said.

"The Church's submission to the Fair Work Act Review is confidential to avoid any unnecessary interference from critics seeking to pre-empt the Review's findings."

The Church of Scientology was investigated by the Fair Work Ombudsman last year for claims some adherents worked up to 72 hours without a break and for as little as $10 a week. However, it was deemed that some of these workers were volunteers.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.